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Student learning through work placements

Duke, Ben

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Ben Duke


The core aim of this research study is to analyse the effects of experiential learning pedagogy on students, received during work based student placements. This study identifies and examines the perceptions held by higher education (HE) stakeholders, regarding the effects of experiential learning work placements on students.

My research is situated in Bourdieusian concepts, which include ‘habitus’, ‘field’, and ‘cultural reproduction’ (Bourdieu, 1977b, p72; 1986a, p60; 1977a, p487). My research found employability is an agency in its own right. Employability had a doxa (a societally embedded opinion) (Bourdieu, 1977b, p169) effect on my research study. Most of the research responses were given in employability terms. The majority of research participants clearly indicated other aspects of experiential learning, e.g. students developing self-efficacy were a secondary consideration. Preparedness for work was the key priority. My research found, all HE stakeholders have been influenced to ‘ideologically reproduce’ the employability agenda, in order to ‘fit in’ with the current HE landscape (Bourdieu, 1977a, p490; Bourdieu, 1990, p53; Brady, 2012, p346).

This research study found that Holdsworth and Quinn’s (2012, p386) ‘reproductive’ or ‘deconstructive’ concepts present in their ‘Student Volunteering’ study, were replicated by students on unpaid experiential learning work placements, with either a ‘Third Sector’ organisation or a statutory agency. This study also identified hitherto undiscovered causal factors, absent in Holdsworth and Quinn’s (2012) study. These are additional social actors, which significantly influence whether students become ‘reproductive’ or ‘deconstructive’ during experiential learning work placements.

This research found the ‘wider society’ is an existential agency, which has a strategic governance role representing society as a whole. The ‘wider society’ has a societal remit to coordinate delivery of all society’s needs, which includes social care provision and environmental management. Trained people are required to deliver this societal remit, so the ‘wider society’ is an experiential learning higher education stakeholder.


Duke, B. (2017). Student learning through work placements


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